Selling tickets on the Titanic? I’ll take one. Invade Russia during winter? Sounds awesome. Import possums, stoats and ferrets to a country with abundant birdlife and no natural predators? What could possibly go wrong? There’s a Trojan horse outside? Hang on, I’ll open the gates.
I am a one-woman calamity, a human disaster ray right now. I couldn’t make a good decision to save my life, got more bad ideas than hot dinners – although that’s probably because I don’t actually have a proper kitchen, or a shower. I almost have a toilet and I’m very excited about it: so excited, when Roy from Bioloo drove all the way down from Rotorua to deliver it, I hugged him like I’d never let him go. “Toilets sometimes have this effect on people,” he said.
Anyway, turns out that after the angry phase and the crying phase and the thinking-about-having-sex-with-your-ex phase comes the part where you realise you’re alone. I mean really by yourself, literally independent, in that if you get sick no one cares (newly single shock #657) and you have to make ALL the decisions from now on. Social, financial, material. I know this will sound fabulous to those of you currently fantasising, as you do, about your spouse dying − quickly and painlessly while doing what they love, of course − thus enabling the buying of whatever without all the tedious negotiation and explaining and lies about half price sales that go with coupledom, however, the truth is not having someone to bounce ideas off (even just to decide what not to do) can be paralyzing.
I tried to buy a new phone yesterday and, overwhelmed by the plethora of choices simply had to give up. On any given day you can find me in the pasta aisle, racked with indecision. Spirals versus penne? Ravioli? Macaroni? It’s all too much.
Worse, I’m living in the middle of a major building project that involves installing a composting toilet, a kitchen, gas hot water, a new water tank and pump. As with any renovation, there are hundreds of individual decisions to be made − and if I get any of them wrong, the house will fall down. The look of utter hopelessness and bewilderment I sometimes give the builder freaks him out completely and more than once I’ve found myself sobbing against his high-vis clad chest after he made the mistake of looking sympathetic. It’s the job from hell.
Things having gone the proverbial pear, it can initially seem impossible to mould them into any other shape. Life becomes a messy swirl, a downward spiral; you’re emotionally all over the place, like a mad woman’s poo. It’s like being in a pinball machine, caroming hither and yon at the whim of a malevolent child. Perhaps because you’re transitioning into someone new, a lot of weird, out-of-character behaviour is only natural at this nebulous ‘who am I now?’ stage. Before, I used to be a bit of a scaredy-cat, extremely risk-adverse. Now, everything burnt to the ground, the most awful already happened, there doesn’t seem to be much left for me to fear. And so it is, without the safety net of a stable relationship and the conventions and expectations of normality associated, all rational thought has evaporated and a new reckless streak emerged, a fearlessness I never knew I possessed, a brave stupidity that, strangest and most dangerous of all, manifests in night surfing.
In the pitch dark, on a moonless night, I float, legs dangling above the mouths of invisible monsters, waves slapping against the cliff, shags grumbling in their nests above. Sometimes unable to tell the shore from the inky ocean stretching into the shipping lane − nothing but Albatrosses till South America − you don’t know which way is up when you fall into the cold blackness, yet I couldn’t give a buggering cluck. This thoughtless lack of health and safety planning, this Evel Knievel bus jumping is just a symptom of these most confusing of times and will, according to friends who have been here, go on for a while yet and (I have it on good authority) may include, but not be limited to: unprotected sex with absolutely the wrong man, drunk driving, smoking at Olympic level, eating pies and wearing mini-skirts. Eventually, though, even this wayward stuff will fall away, and I’ll find a new normal, a new way to be myself. I might be drowning, not waving, at the moment but soon, hopefully, I’ll remember that I do know how to swim.